Diverse Abilities

Gina Martin

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Different canes for different terrains

Gina standing on a trail with her cane. The sun is shining through the trees. A couple of years ago, my husband and I travelled to Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island. Our goal was to see the tide pools during low tide at Botanical Beach. I was told the trail/path down was inaccessible to me due to tree roots, rocks, low hanging branches, steps, and many small plank walkways.  Me being me, I was not going to let anything stop me from trying.

For everyday travel and navigation, I use a long white rigid cane  with a metal tip. On this day, I found that this trusted mobility device which gives me confidence was not cooperating on that type of terrain.  Because of its flexibility, it regularly caught roots, rocks, and sticks. They flicked and wobbled my cane in the air, rendering it not safe or effective. The journey to see the tide pools ended before we made it as the layers of frustration got the better of me. I said I would never do that trail again. 

Since then, I have been bothered and disappointed that I never finished the trail and saw the tide pools. Some of them are 20-30 feet deep with all kinds of sea life living in them! The sight I have is so minimal now that I would not see much of the sea life but the experience of being there, feeling the wind in my hair, hearing the waves crashing on the rocks, feeling the spray of the ocean on my face, and smelling the salty air are a few of the reasons I just knew I had to try one more time. 

We went back to Port Renfrew for our anniversary earlier this month. This time, I brought a few different types of canes and tips.  I knew my trusty straight cane wasn’t up for this task, so thought I would explore and find out if a different mobility cane made a difference. I started with a heavy folding cane that allows for some weight bearing -- perfect for some of the bigger steps up or down or for stepping over the occasional fallen log on the trail. This cane is shoulder height to me in length and has a rolling ball for a tip, but I changed it to a pencil tip to help with stabilizing and support. After a very short time, I put that cane away -- helpful for balance, but it was too heavy for my wrist. I then tried a telescopic cane. It was an immediate “no” for me. I then took out my folding Ambutech cane with the marshmallow tip. This cane measure is to my chest height.  I noticed right away that the shorter cane was much easier to navigate the trail. I was getting information about my surroundings much more quickly, boosting my confidence and sense of safety. I successfully navigated the trail and arrived at the tide pools during low tide. Unfortunately, the tide was not low enough to see the tide pools, but I did get the satisfaction of arriving safely and not stressed.  It felt so empowering! 

So, this time I did not get to see the tide pools, but I did get to have the experience of being there and feeling the wind in my hair, hearing the waves crashing on the rocks, feeling the spray of the ocean on my face, and smelling the salty air.  Gratitude for another perfect moment in this journey called life. 

What a difference the type of mobility cane I used made! It improved my experience, confidence, and abilities. I went from feeling frustrated and giving up with my trusted everyday cane to regaining my confidence and conquering a challenge. I am definitely going back another time when it is optimal for tide pool exploration. 

“Losing my sight has not changed who I am, it has changed my interactions with the world.” Gina Martin

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